At some point in the near future, Chelsea’s upcoming fixture list is going to look pretty daunting and unreasonably densely packed with important games, some of which will require a lot of travelling. It will be difficult and I doubt the players are looking forward to it. At the minute though, the fixtures surely aren’t coming fast enough! After an incredible September, this international break threatens to disrupt the phenomenal form we’ve built up and need to maintain against Spurs and Man Utd. Nevertheless, there were a couple of fascinating international fixtures for us to enjoy from a Chelsea perspective at the end of last week…
The first one being Belgium playing away to Serbia in their Group A WC Qualifier. Even without the Chelsea connections, this was interesting to watch, as a contest between two of the most exciting young sides in Europe at the moment. Firstly looking at the side Sinisa Mahajlovic has put together for Serbia – Matija Nastasic (Manchester City) and Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund) could easily develop into one the world’s greatest centre back partnerships. Also, the attacking quartet of Zoran Tosic, Filip Duricic,FC Twente playmaker Dusan Tadic and 18 year old Lazar Markovic (who’s been linked to Chelsea in the past) have to potential to be formidable together.
The most important step Mihajlovic has taken though in forming this Serbia team is the removal of all the cliques that have been so detrimental in the past leading up to major tournaments. He is attempting to build a side that will be united and stimulated by patriotic pride and a passionate desire to represent and succeed with their country. This is where he is fortunate in already having the perfect captain to lead such a side, in Branislav Ivanovic. An unforgiving, uncompromising, hard as nails defender who already adorns the captains armband with pride. Under the leadership of Mihajlovic and our outstanding #2, Serbia are a team I’d recommend any fan to watch out for over the next few years.
As for Belgium, I’ve written loads about them for this blog already, so I’ll just say I think they’re at the stage now that Serbia should be aspiring towards – where all of their best players have really begun to fulfil their potential as individuals at club level and now are expected to start delivering for their country. In the end they comfortably won 3-0 Friday night with goals from Benteke, Mirallas and from Kevin De Bruyne (who also picked up an assist). So far the 21 year old’s loan spell at Werder Bremen has gone brilliantly and by all indications, he could be a key player for Chelsea sooner rather than later – which you’d think would inevitably make him a key player for Belgium as well.
The second game of interest to me was Brazil’s friendly with Iraq. No doubt this would’ve been an important game for Oscar as well as he got to line up alongside his hero, Kaka, for the first time in his career. This was Kaka’s first game for Brazil since the 2010 World Cup; I’m not sure personally how he’d have felt about his performance. He scored a fantastic goal, and if his only objectives were to prove he still oozes quality and can play a major part in the development and improvement of this young team – then I think he’d have been very happy. If he wanted to come back and prove he’s still good enough for the side to be based around him, then he could only have been very disappointed.
What Thursday night’s game showed was that Kaka could never be the main man for Brazil again, as despite his excellent performance he was nowhere near the best player on the pitch. That distinction goes to… surprise surprise – Oscar! If you ask me, the reality for Kaka isn’t that he can ‘no longer’ influence a game the way Oscar does, but it’s that he never could. Partly because the first half of his career coincided with the best years of Ronaldinho’s career and partly because the second half was dictated by Dunga’s defensive tactics – but ultimately, he is just a very different sort of playmaker to Oscar and in many ways is inferior.
As always, the Chelsea player was at the centre of all of Brazil’s attacking moves. During the first half in particular it seemed like he had more touches of the ball than the rest of the team combined! His incredible energy and work rate meant he was constantly available to pass to and it bought him the first two of Brazil’s six goals. Whether he meant to or not, Oscar provided a conclusive answer to those wondering what Kaka’s role could be, moving forward with the national team. And the answer is as long as his natural heir and successor is in the team, Kaka will remain a periphery figure, forced to adapt and change into the sort of player this new generation needs him to be – the sort of player that won’t stifle the creative freedom that used to be his, and is now the privilege of a younger, more complete version of himself.
International breaks that interrupt the Premier League season are always going to be a pain, especially when Chelsea are on such a good run of form. But at least when there are Chelsea players leading/inspiring/forming the spine of some of the most exciting young teams from all around the world – I think we have just about enough to keep us going.